Friday, February 27, 2009

Annals of Authentic - Victorio's Barber Shop, Elmwood Park

A wise scribe once equated connoisseurship of food with appreciation of a good barber. Hear hear. In that vein, let me introduce you all to Victorio, a highly ideal barber and his shop in Elmwood Park.

Does Victorio meet all my needs in a barber? I shall say upfront, I have certain barber-wish list items unfulfilled by Victorio. For one thing, a man deserves a decent shoe shine with his cut, but that, my friends, is an art dying even faster than the art of barbering. I also very much like the feel of getting my hair cut in some place like the basement of the Palmer House, with their row of about ten chairs, but not only did I not particularly like my one haircut there years ago, I do not even believe they are in business anymore; gone as in the Friday fillet of sole and oddly green cole slaw. I also fantasize that my barber is a bit of a bookie on the side, that I can play my favorite number with him or take a square in the weekly Calcutta. Victorio, I can tell, is much too nice of a guy to get caught up in that kinda stuff.

We know what he lacks. What then, are the many traits that have made me happy, to have settled in with Victorio as my guy. It starts actually not with him but on the way to him. Victorio keeps a small pot of coffee going. I never go near, not the least because he has only creamer. Instead, I stop nearly always at Massa, on the way, on North Ave., for an espresso. There is something about the act of popping off a shot of caffe that makes me feel more like a man, more able to get the best from Victorio. And he always gives me his best. He is firstly modest, not wanting to impose his sense of fashion. He is secondly, and much more vital, not so in love with his scissors. Some barbers just cut and cut, frankly I believe, because they like the sound of it. Victorio uses his scissors well. It's a hell of a good $15 cut.

It is not the cut one truly wants in a barber. It is the experience, the accessories. It starts with the magazines. Of course there should be papers that you do not want it to be generally known that you peruse. This is a safe haven. But there should also be journals that appeal to your better instincts, to be the Esquire man of the 60's, and along with the Playboys and Maxims, Victorio has Wine Spectator and other finer rags.

Then, mostly, it is the bells and whistles that matter to me. Is my neck that much sharper looking because Victorio shaved it with a real, Sweeney-Todd, straight razor. What does all that talc do for me. I want it though. If other traditional barbers have the Clubman lotions and the hot lather, do they have this: a Mad Man era neck massager. Yes, us real men, us barber shop dwelling men, feel secure in letting a quiet man stand behind us and make us feel good for a few minutes. It is not the trim we desire. We want more. We want what Victorio gives.

I cannot guarantee you, however, that Victorio will give you the best hair cut possible. I do think you will find his place authentically good.

7900 W North Ave
Elmwood Park, IL 60707
(708) 453-3899

Monday, February 23, 2009

Edible Information

I'd kvell about the new issue of Edible Chicago despite the fact that the Local Beet's Melissa Graham* gets a good write-up, and despite the fact that my name gets more than a bit of play. Ann and crew put together an issue making it very clear that local food in Chicago does not hibernate come winter. I picked up my copy at Fox & Obel. Green Grocer should have it by about the time you see it, and a few other places to pick up the magazine can be found here. Get your copy now.

Fox & Obel, Green Grocer, mmmm, I guess I was doing a bit of shopping. What did I buy? Well, the day to day exploits of me and the rest of my Local Family can be found at the Local Beet. Saturday I made it to Chicago's Green City Market, I'm sure I'll have a report on Sunday's shopping up soon. For more up to date reports on the ins and outs of eating local, you can find me on Twitter here.

To help you all in your quest to eat local, the Beet highlights interesting upcoming events. We also post weekly, a column of eat local activities. When things get going by May, we won't be able to tell you of each area market. Instead, we will have the most complete, user friendly guide to area farmer’s markets. The Local Beet already has your a guide to area CSAs (and addressed some of your CSA concerns).

The Local Beet also wants to hear from you. We want your knowledge and input. A few weeks ago, a friend asked me why we did not include a certain restaurant in our (admittedly work in progress) list of local-friendly restaurants. It was no slight I assured her. Let us know any restaurants or shops that sell “our kind of food.” Please add generally to our resources. We have a forum to collect and disseminate data. If you need info, ask away.

In addition to our farmer's market guide, the Local Beet has some other great things in the works, especially in the area of food policy. Keep your eyes focused on our developments.

I am very proud to be associated with the Local Beet and Edible Chicago. I am working closely with Michael Morowitz, Melissa Graham and others to make the Beet an outstanding online resource, and I know that Ann and Rebbecca and others are working to make Edible Chicago an outstanding print resource. Eating locally in Chicago is getting better all the time.

*Melissa can also be found blogging here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Another Mado Family Dinner Under the Belt

Really, it's not six course of local pork cooked up by Chefs Rob and Allison Levitt of Mado, with the assistance of Jason Vincent of Lula's soon to open Pilsen spot that has me avoiding dinner tonight. I mean I did nosh a bit at the Happy Anniversary party for Cassie's Green Grocer and ate one wee moon cake my family brought home for me from Argyle. Besides, I should treat the Mado family dinners as much more than an exercise in gluttony. After all there was the Slagels talking hog while we ate one of their hogs, but REB on LTHForum does a good job of covering the Slagels. In fact, Ronna covers the meal pretty well, although I found the fritto misto of pork parts crisp and hot when it got to me. Still, what is there to say these days about a Mado family meal than, boy am I stuffed.

Actually, I believe I ate much less at the family dinner. I mean not less as in what a regular person would eat, but maybe less than I did at a previous family dinner. Rob Levitt admonished us early on, save room for desserts. If we did not adequately and fully eat his wife's creations, he would be sleeping on the sofa, he warned. On the other hand, what about me. What about this Rob ending up on the sofa. See, lo, around three in the AM, I awoke from the internal machinations of my organs that sought to process all the consumption. I'm not blaming that on the pork so much as the five bottles of wine and a good dose or two of Michigan pear brandy we all shared. I needed one of those purified seltzer bottles Mado sells for like a buck, but I had to settle for plain old Lake Michigan to hydrate the systems. Next thing you know, I'm watching the early version of Sports Center. I could of course, if I wanted, watch the Australian Open live. And drifting off on the couch.

Platter after platter of pork somehow lends itself to reasonable eating. I'm the kinda guy though to eat much too much of roasted celery root or turnips, well turnips cooked in goose fat. I could settle this time for ones of each. I even limited myself to one trip around the charcuterie table, but I stopped only because I had psyched myself up all afternoon not to each so much pork rillette. I want very much to have a better figure to sell the health benefits of local eating. One can only sell local health on so many slices of house made mortadella.

I took reasonable portions of the next courses. The most non-porcine thing on the menu last night, a fried sardine contained so much sardinial intensity that I was not returning to it anyway. One was enough. I showed restraint on the salad course of lentils, pickled tongue and bacon, but come to think of it, there was not more to eat. I did not have that problem with the meatballs, and several rosemary heavy polpette lay next to my spot, taunting me. I did finally give in and have a second meatball, but I did it the way my grandfather would, who would not, in a thousand years, ever have eaten in a place like Mado, but if he had, would have done like me, taking a forkful and then another forkful until a whole extra meatball had made its way into my gullet. Really, it was not the extra pork I needed, it was the sauerkraut.

We all ooh'd and ah'd over the dumplings, lauded the cookies that combined buckwheat with air and just a hint of sugar and need no urging from Rob to finish his wife's Shaker lemon pie which made the definitive argument for lard crusts. Yet, yet all that, this was a night for lowly ol' cabbage. Dabs of it gave the right buttery accent to the pasta, and the sauerkraut that Rob said he had made and then plum forgot about, I overturned all the extra meatballs to get any kraut lurking underneath. I'm stuffed on sauerkraut.

It goes without saying that I cannot wait until the next Mado family dinner.

1647 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL
(773) 342-2340

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Vital Update!

Guess I did not check the one place I should have been checking when checking what was new (to check).

The Local Beet welcomes it's latest blogger today. Vera V is a farmer, a wool spinner, an artist and a market vendor. I very much look forward to what she'll have to say at the Farmer's Almanac. She gives a little background today.

Vital News

If you wonder where the missives are, urging all to eat local, I blog almost daily at the Local Beet.

Look forward to some forthcoming design tweaks at the Beet and more, a new blogger to the fray.

In the meantime, enjoy the Beet's guide to 2009 CSA's.

I think there's a space or two available for tonight's family dinner at Mado. The theme, duh, a whole pig. A very happy way to eat at Mado. I promise a picture less report.

Happy Anniversary Cassie and Gary at Green Grocer Chicago. Come to the party on Monday. I heard there will be plenty of local produce, even in the winter. The omnipresent one, Michael Nagrant hits all the high points of Green Grocer in this Serious Eats profile.

Round up a designated driver for Vie's dinner with Death's Door Spirits this Thursday.

Some people cannot worry about whether their food is local, some people have to worry, even today, whether there is food period. The Greater Chicago Food Depository is one of the main bulwarks ensuring there's some food for all who need it. Martha Bayne's doing her part assist this cause. Three other local food celebrities pitch in this week with soup at the Hideout on Wednesday.

It's somewhat old news now, but still quite interesting. Roth Kase of Wisconsin, which has very successfully bridged the divide between artisinal and commercial cheese took on a new international owner. Here's a good take on the Roth Kase sale and other high finance maneuvers in America's Dairyland.

Nina's organizing a potluck for Chicago eat local fans on Feb 28th. I think I'll be able to attend.

In case you lost count, seven more reasons to eat local.

Ever wonder about the wheat berries you see at the winter markets or maybe in Madison. This may help figure them out.

Plugs always for three local woman: Valereee, Lenae, and the VFG.

Who says eating local cannot be done in the North. How they doing eating local in the Hudson Valley? Or New England.

What else?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Yes I'm Nutz

Presentation Tonight (1/15/09) - Oak Park - Local Eating in the Winter

A month or so ago, I was asked to participate in a presentation in Oak Park on winter local eating. There would be a grower, a market maker and me, the market shopper. I jumped at the opportunity like I jump at any opportunity to spread the eat local message. Then the week rolled in.

On Sunday, we sent e-mails around. It would be minus 212 degrees on Thursday. Would we want to postpone? Me, I said I would be willing to wait, but what better way to hammer home the idea of winter eating than in the winter-est of winter days. But then again I'm nutz. It turned out my fellow panelists were equally nutz, and we all voted to proceed.

I do hope there's some fellow nutzians out there who want to discuss winter eating tonight. Details below:

Green Community Center in Oak Park presents Locally Grown Foods in Winter

Thursday, Jan. 15, 7pm

New Spirit Community Church
542 S. Scoville, Oak Park

What are the obstacles to growing and buying local foods in the off-season in Chicago? What are the solutions? What can you find–and where can you find it? Presenters include Kathy Caldwell (Catalina’s Garden), who sells at farmers markets and has ventured into season-extending growing methods; Robin Schirmer, who organizes Winter Farmers Markets & Meals for Hope in the Chicago area; and Rob Gardner, who together with his family is eating as locally as possible year-round.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wbat's New - Cassie's Green Grocer

Liquor'd Up

It came on the txt messenger, via e-mail and through the Facebook group. Cassie's damn happy to have received her liquor license. She promises local beer and North Shore Distillery spirits, and she's looking into Michigan wines. I, of course, as always, will be full of suggestions. Go have a drink with her.

In the more mundane part of the store, Cassie received on Monday, local beets, and two types of local onions including cippolini onions. Today, she expects chard, baby greens salad mix, parsnips, turnips and lettuces. Dominicks was advertising cherries last week. Go shop where the produce is still local.

Green Grocer Chicago
1402 W. Grand
(312) 624-9508

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fish Fry Wisconsin Cont.

They Write E-Mails

I got this advice from chicagostylehotdog on some Wisconsin fish fries
In your hunt for a close Wisconsin fish fry, I suggest Beer Belly's on Layton in Milwaukee. Great pan fried perch & blue gill. Wegner's St. Martin's Inn does a nice Friday night fish fry too. If you're headed up north into Vilas County, Birch Lake Resort on County W in Winchester, just north of Manitowish Waters, serves a nice family style Friday fish fry.
Good luck!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Roadtripmania - Wisconsin Fish Fry

I promised last week to provide many roadtrip ideas in 2009. The road allows you to explore regional cuisines, and it allows you to find foodstuffs to take home. A prime part of the regional cuisine end of the equation is to go north of Chicago for the Wisconsin fish fry. This local family, like many a cheesehead, is never unable to eat fish on a Friday. There's many sites out there dedicated to Wisconsin fish fries. I've highlighted some of these sites before. Today in some, it's Saturday, I don't have to be the least bit productive combination Internet noodling-online poker playing, I ran across this site, on Classic Wisconsin Fish Fries.

All I had to do was go to one entry, to find this bit of blog on Jim & Linda's Supper Club, that's already got me dreaming of perch:
Jim & Linda cared enough to post a hand-painted sign shaped like an arrow along the highway. The sign said, “Jim & Linda’s.” This touched classicwisconsin deeply, as hand painted signs for supper clubs often do. Nothing says, “Eat our fish, fisheaters, and drink our drinks, drinking fisheaters” than a homemade sign shaped like an arrow inviting you into (insert name here) & (insert name here) Supper Club. You just know the drinks will be served in buckets, the décor will be Menards chic, and the waitstaff will be slinging fish like Favre throws pigskin.

What classicwisconsin did not anticipate was seeing a middle-aged woman in a sleeveless shirt casually sniffing her armpits while she sat at the bar.

I cannot speak to the palate of this blogger nor to the overall veracity of the information provided on Classicwisconsin. I also warn that the organization of the data is, well, limited. This is a blog that requires browsing; you do not get pin-pointed research results. Still, it is exactly the kinda of randomness that makes the 'net so damn addicting.

I fully expect to have a few new fish fries under the gullet in 2009. I hope you all find some good ones as well.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

And What's Local, Caputo's

I did not want to go to Caputo's. My wife and I needed Caffe Italia, both for a reprieve from the cold Bungalow and for a new pound of morning coffee. But my wife cannot be on that stretch of Harlem without going to Caputo's, and no matter how much I want to "get going" can I resist the need to see what's available local.

There was.

Michigan empire apples at 69 cents/lb and Mr. Tasty russet potatoes at some unknown price, I could only barely resist anything called Mr. Tasty because I have so many potatoes now in the attic.

Note to readers: heater on the fritz is good for the upstairs root cellar.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

What's Local at...

It'll be another week until Green City Market re-convenes, and then will there be anything but pork? Eat local fans may think their options limited, but a bit of out and about finds plenty of options. Here's some of the things you can find locat at...

...Cassie's Green Grocer is always all things local. She's picked up the contract to sell interesting small producer cheeses from the Monroe, Wisconsin area, especially the fine cheeses from Edleweiss Creamery--about the only local guys to make a true large wheel Ementhaler. Her city farm sources send her arugula and sunchokes, and other city farms should shortly be providing her greens and roots.

...Robin, don't call them her, winter markets, Saturday in Chicago and Sunday in Deerfield. Robin and I just got the most gorgeous baby vegetables from Farmer Vicki's Genesis Growers. Come get yours at the markets.

...Jewel (Roosevelt and State, Chicago) - Jewel is good for two things these days, yartzheit candles and BelGioioso American Grana cheese. While shopping for those things, I espied Wisconsin onions and Michigan apples.

...Marion Street Cheese, Oak Park - Joining La Quercia in their collection of fine Midwestern pork products is a Spanish style, dry ham, from pastured, acorn fed, pigs raised by Crawford Farm in Wisconsin. Quite pricey but quite decadent too.

If you cannot get off your keester to any of these fine places, Irv and Shelly will bring it to you. New this week, they have ravioli made by Local Folks Foods in Indiana.

What else are you all seeing?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Eat Local Arnold's Meat

For those interested in eating local meats, Arnold Farms will be at the forthcoming winter markets (details some other time). I've copied below, their latest e-mail. If you want ordering info or price sheets you can contact them at or contact me.

[Passed along as a courtesy]

Hi, Folks:

I hope everyone has had a wonderful Christmas season. I’m sure you are looking forward to a bright New Year. All of us have many things to be thankful for and to build upon as we move ahead. 2009 will be a positive beginning to the rest of our lives!!

Arnold’s Farm January deliveries will be coordinated again around the Harvest of Hope Indoor Winter Farmer’s Markets. I’ve attached an updated market schedule. I plan to participate in those listed and encourage you to check out the ones nearby. There have been up to 15 other vendors attending. A café or brunch is often offered featuring products from some of the vendors with our sandwich ham and breakfast links frequently used. Strong attendance at most markets have made the atmosphere quite festive. Not only do these markets give vendors an outlet for their products and an opportunity for potential customers to check them out, but 10% of each vendor’s gross sales goes to the Harvest of Hope Fund to benefit farmers who may be experiencing tough times. Maybe crops were damaged by flooding this past year or an accident affected a farmer’s ability to get work done when needed. Up to $1000.00 per farm can be requested from the fund to help defray expenses they may be struggling with. This truly is a win, win, win situation for all participating!

Our January delivery schedule will be as follows:

*** CHICAGO AND NORTH. Saturday, January 10th: St. Benedict Parish, 2210 W. Irving Park Rd., Chicago, (just east of Western). 9:00 am – 1:00 pm. This will be the downtown stop for January. Anyone ordering from Chicago and the northwest side are welcome to meet me here. Stops after the market would be Rogers Park, 2:15 pm; Des Plaines, 3:30; Arlington Heights, 4:30; Round Lake Beach, 6:00.

*** NORTH. Sunday, January 11th: North Shore Unitarian Church, 2100 Half Day Rd (Rt. 22), Deerfield. 10:00 am – 1:30 pm. If this date, time, and place work better to meet me, please consider it.

*** WEST & SOUTH. Wednesday, January 14: Stops for this day would be Elgin, 8:15; Bartlett, 9:00am; North Aurora, 10:00; Downer’s Grove, 11:00; Villa Park, 12:00; Lockport, 2:00 pm.

*** OAK PARK / RIVER FOREST. Sunday, January 18th: Grace Lutheran Church, 7300 W. Division, River Forest. 9:30 am - 1:30 pm.

Sides of beef and pork can be ordered for these deliveries. Due to the holiday season, weather, and the lateness of this newsletter, I have already processed animals to the specifications we use for our “Individual Cuts” and “Packages” lists. If these cutting specs work for you, and you are still interested in sides delivered this month, let me know. I will work with you on getting the items you need from what I have on hand, and you will save money per lb. of meat over buying packages or individual cuts. If you are thinking of sides for March delivery or any for the Farmer’s Markets in February, let me know so I can reserve processing for you.

SAVE!! All grass fed beef is still 5% off September prices!! This includes sides, 25# packages, and all cuts in stock!! Check out the “January Specials” attachment for all grass fed beef roasts at an even greater discount as well as turkey, all grain fed beef roasts, and pork items. A few limited quantity items are also listed there, first ordered, first served.

We have plenty of whole and whole cut chickens! Average weights are 4.5# - 5.0# with some as small as 3.5#. Cost: $2.75/#. Add $0.75 per bird for cut-up. I also have some “wingless birds” available at $0.10/# off. (These are chickens that may have had wings damaged in processing. USDA inspection requires any damaged area be removed at the next joint, leaving these birds with a wing(s) missing but otherwise in perfect condition.)

Upcoming regular Delivery Months are January, March and May.

Please have your order e-mailed or called in by Wednesday, January 7th. If you do not receive a confirmation on your order within 3 days, please e-mail again or call 815-858-2407. For those who have not placed an order recently or are thinking of ordering for the first time, do not hesitate to contact me by email or phone with product questions, where the closest stop to you may be, or to set up a stop in your area ($600.00 of orders minimum required to generate a stop to an area not already serviced). A delivery fee of $0.30/# is added to all orders.

Thank you for supporting a local food system and sustainable farming!

Tom Arnold

Eat Indiana Local

The VI family spends a fair amount of time in Wisconsin. While we never tire of Madison, and have much of the state to explore still (whitefish livers in Bayfield here we come!), I am also ready to move on to a new state. As my post of the other day indicated, I'm game for Bloomington. I am very keen on Goosing the Market in Indianapolis, and I have at least two gristmills to try. On top of that I'd love to hit the South Bend market one day during the winter, and also try (again) America's near Elkhart.

I have found some good resources for this new vector of eating local. There's this web site; this book as well as this book and this book. Looking forward to using it all.

Eat Local Nationwide

This is not exactly a fresh piece of article, but when doing some research in Indiana last week, I did happen to come across this listing of some grocery stores around the US that specialize in local food. The post mentions Lionette in Boston. I have to say, I liked that store. but was much more impressed (as of last winter) with Plum Produce in Boston. Of course, what kinda person does locavore groceries and fails to mention Cassie's Green Grocer!

(Not So) Deep Thought

Is there anything more frustratingly annoying than turning on a computer that's been idle for two weeks? The 100's of e-mails loading, the thousandth new MS patch, virus scans, finding the annoying AOL files lurking in RAM.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Vital Roadtrips - 2009 - Part I

To Bloomington

The more I wear a hole in my Priceline account, the happier I make my wife. She never tires of the road. We returned last night from various parts in Kentucky and Indiana (and almost Tennessee), and I know her wanderlust already brews. So, before recounting our experiences finding a water driven mill and eating amongst the chains, outposts, and hotels of Kentucky, let me start working on our next trips. Over the next few weeks (I swear), I will lay out some prospective road trips for 2009. Highest on my list right now, is Bloomington, IN.

We visit the lands around us, especially for the food. It allows us to sample and obtain regional dishes and specialities unavailable in Chicago. I mean how many places remark, like the Mammoth Cave Hotel, "we're out of chicken, it''ll take 45 minutes for more." We can meet our products, such as at the various distilleries in Kentucky. On the other hand, away from Chicago, we find communities much more advanced on the locavore path, e.g., Madison, WI. But we pick up dried beans in Michigan and bourbon ball candy in Frankfort, KY. Local is always where we find it. Bloomington seems like it will met our needs (extremely).

Farmers and artisans working for consumers fill Southern Indiana. Just look at this guide (pdf). At least two chefs have gained notoriety using this bounty. Daniel Orr though brought fame with him to Bloomington. He's no shrinking violet! He chef'd New York's La Grenouille to three stars many years ago. Now, he's back home in Southern Indiana, with the multi-complexed FARMbloomington. Orr combines local food with his well-traveled backgrounds. The menus sound about right, but I can easily relate to the skepticism raised on this blog. How much of a rivalry does David Tallent have for Orr. He's been on the high-end, local Bloomington scene since 2003 at his namesake restaurant. Buzz around his place is generally better or at least more consistent (typical). If we tire of dueling resume'd chefs, I can follow the advice of one of my favorite bloggers, Virtual Farmgirl and have big steaks and Yugoslavian foods at Janko's Little Zagreb.

We would not be hot on the Bloomington trail without a farmer's market in site. Bloomington reportedly hosts the largest farmer's market in Indiana. It does not pack up in the winter either. If the market carries half as much stuff as it did last year, it will be worth it. In other markets, Bloomingfoods seems worth a visit and maybe Sahara; I mean besides local food, Sahara prepares over 30 varieties of olives, olives being one of my favorite exceptions or exemptions or whatever we call non-local food these days.

A local brew would be in order, and Uplands sounds OK.

Of course we would be hot on the trail of regional specialities that may or may not be around when we visit Southern Indiana. The genius who thought to fry biscuits worked at the Nashville House (so they say), but they are at other places now too. The will be maple sugar a-brewin' around the end of February (cf). A good and decent Indiana persimmon is only ready to eat when it gets so ripe if falls off the tree. There are gathered from lawns all around in the fall. Because the fresh product would have a shelf life of a half-a-day, it usually frozen, with little effect for pudding or ice cream use. If American persimmons are under appreciated, what about Indiana's hickory shagbark syrup used by Wolfgang Puck and Rick Bayless. And who would leave without finding a pork tenderloin? It may not be served in a gas station, but Gnaw Bone still serves a famous version.

Bloomington, high on the Vital Roadtrips for 2009